In March 2022, nearly two years to the day that WITS ceased in-person programming at schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kindergarten students sat next to their mentors, opened up a book, and began reading. Students chirped and chatted with excitement behind their masks. Mentors offered their best read aloud voices. WITS Kindergarten was officially back.
The WITS Kindergarten program quickly became part of the routine for students. Schools welcomed staff and mentors back with open arms. It almost felt as if we never left. Nothing beats watching students light up and run to see their mentors when they get to WITS.
WITS Kindergarten Back In Schools
Fast forward to June, and WITS is celebrating students and mentors as the WITS Kindergarten program ends for the school year. WITS worked with 100 kindergarten readers across four Chicago public schools. The school partners for WITS Kindergarten included:
- Hibbard Elementary School in the Albany Park neighborhood
- Walsh Elementary School in the Pilsen neighborhood
- Drake Elementary School in the Bronzeville neighborhood
- Jose de Diego Elementary School in the Humboldt Park neighborhood
In the 2020-2021 school year, in lieu of a virtual, synchronous program for kindergarten students, WITS created WITS K Online for kindergarten age readers (and their families!) to engage in fun and educational literacy activities while at home. WITS K Online was a great success, but WITS was ready to work one-on-one with kindergarten students again in 2022. We weren’t sure how community volunteers would respond to coming back. Is it too soon? Did they forget about WITS? Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm and interest we saw from our community of volunteers. In fact, at Jose de Diego Elementary, we had enough mentors that every kindergarten student participated in the program.
Wrapping Up The Year With New Books
WITS Kindergarten provides students with safe and welcoming reading spaces; a time for students and their mentors to enjoy books, reading, and sharing stories. The WITS Kindergarten program supports young learners as they get acquainted with reading alongside others outside of the home.
To encourage the magic of reading all year long, WITS gave the students in program brand new books to take home and share with their families. Ellen Werner, WITS program director, worked closely with the program team to select a unique set of books for each program based on the students’ interests. In addition to selecting books we think our students will love, WITS is committed to promoting books by BIPOC authors and illustrators.
Delaney Earley, WITS program coordinator at Drake Elementary, perfectly sums up the return to WITS Kindergarten, “It was truly rejuvenating to be back in schools with WITS Kindergarten this year. The joy emanating from students and mentors alike was palpable, and it was great to see relationships grow and reading progress made in the short time we had together.”